First, thank you for all your patience and the flexibility you have shown recently! It’s been a wild ride the past three months. And it’s not over. But the encouragement of Scripture is that we are more than conquerors through Christ, so no matter what we face, the gospel gives us a way forward.
It has been hard to have our meetings moved online, or even restricted these past three months. Once we started meeting again for worship, even if it was in two services and with six-feet between us, it was good. The most common question we’ve received, though, has been, “when will we get back to normal?”
It’s a good question, and there are a few ways to look at it. If “normal” is church for church’s sake, to fit our routine, and comfort us with the familiar traditions of American Christianity, then we don’t ever want to get back to normal! If “normal” is the gathering of the saints for mutual encouragement, equipping for ministry, and the communal worship of our great Lord and Savior, we never stopped.
But, what most people probably mean is, “when will we go back to gathering in one service, with nursery, and Children’s Church?” If that’s the question, then we have an answer: this Sunday, June 28th!
Here’s our plan:
- Sunday School at 9:30, like we’ve been doing.
- One worship service at 10:45 AM.
- We will have nursery care available during the service.
- We will dismiss the kids to Children’s Church after the singing.
- (If you are a volunteer in the nursery or children’s church, please let us know if you’re not ready to return.)
- No RSVP needed for Sunday School or worship service.
- We will have a membership meeting immediately following the worship service.
There is an incredibly important rationale for continuing our move back to “normal.” All through this season, we have advocated keeping two things in mind: loving others well and honoring our governing authorities. First, we recognize that loving others doesn’t just mean loving those in our congregation, community, or country. Instead, as Christ-followers, we have a responsibility to love those outside of those spheres well, too. We continue to learn more about what loving others looks like in this time. Estimates based on pessimistic assumptions suggest that less than 500,000 Americans will die from this pandemic. And yet, at the same time, the UN Food Programme estimates 135 million additional people are at risk of starvation this year due to the economic impacts of coronavirus lockdowns. Worldwide, 1.6 billion humans are at risk of losing their jobs -- a considerable portion of these in places where there is no social safety net to catch the unemployed and where unemployment means loss of food. It is increasingly apparent that the lockdown and limited-mobility response have dangerous repercussions for people in the US and around the world, especially the poor, the marginalized, and the hungry. We cannot ignore the fact that keeping ourselves safe could quite literally cause others to die. It may not seem like much, but a decision to gather again for “normal” worship and fellowship is part of our commitment to loving the least-of-these.
Second, we want to honor the authorities that God has placed over us. On the one hand, we in the church, as Christ’s body here on earth, need to lead the world to live for others, not merely follow a culture that puts our safety before others. We quite literally have an opportunity right now to live the truth that we are willing to die for Jesus. On the other hand, we do not advocate ignoring the real, though small, risk that COVID-19 poses. With that in mind:
- We encourage you to wash your hands and use hand sanitizer frequently.
- We encourage you to maintain social distance, when possible. Our recent attendance in two services indicates that this is feasible even as we transition to one service.
- While we will not require face-masks, you are welcome to wear one.
- We ask everyone to demonstrate care and concern for one another and to ask before offering handshakes or hugs.
- For those who are in high-risk categories or uncomfortable gathering, we encourage you to join our Facebook livestream for remote attendance.
- If you are sick, have been in contact with someone who is, or have other concerns about transmission, please attend online rather than in-person.
Whenever we take a step forward, there is the possibility of confusion: we don’t want to contribute to it in any way. Nor do we want to cause hurt or conflict within the body. So, if you have questions or concerns about this plan for moving forward as a church, please reach out to Brandon (435-709-1119), Bryant (435-327-2752), Dan (229-415-2999), or Richard (562-618-9648).
We will continue to evaluate and monitor the situation in our community as we move forward and keep lines of communication open. Thank you for your flexibility and faithfulness throughout this process.
Dear Red Hills Family,
We will resume meeting together for worship this Sunday, May 10th and, yes, it’s ok to be excited! Here are the details:
- We will not have Sunday School, Children’s Church, or Nursery.
- We will have two worship services, one at 10:45 AM and one at 6:00 PM. We do not want the same people to attend both services, but to pick one. IMPORTANT: we need you to let us know which service you will be attending! Text Brandon at 435-709-1119 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. A service may fill up and we will let you know when you go to RSVP that space is no longer available. We will livestream the 10:45 AM service.
- We will remove every other row of chairs to help us maintain appropriate distance between households. We ask that only members of the same household sit together. Under current guidelines, we can meet so long as the six-foot separation guideline is followed.
- We ask that you please wear a mask when entering, exiting, and fellowshipping. We ask this not out of fear, but out of love for one another. We don’t want even one person who could attend to miss out on worshipping together because people around them won’t wear masks.
- Generally speaking, for the time being we should not shake hands, hug, high-five, etc. Yet “love others” really is one of our core values so we don’t want to unduly constrain expressions of that love. Accordingly, we ask that you not initiate physical contact with anyone unless you agree together (For example, ask, “Can I give you a hug?” rather than going straight in for one. And if someone says they’d prefer not to, don’t push them on it. Love and respect one another.)
- We will have the building cleaned and sanitized ahead of the 10:45 service and Jennifer Barnhurst will come to clean before the 6:00 service.
- Hand sanitizer will be available.
- We will leave the downstairs door locked: please use the main entrance.
- We will not pass offering plates during the service. An offering box will be provided for those who come prepared to give.
- We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper together, but will not pass the elements out. Instead, we will have individual servings set up on the welcome table at the back of the worship space. Please pick one up as you enter if you plan to participate.
- We ask that you not attend if you are sick or symptomatic.
- We understand that not everyone will be ready to resume gathering. That’s ok and why we will continue to livestream our service for those who do not attend in person. If you are uncertain whether to gather or not, we would suggest what other pastors we know have: maintain your personal status quo. If you have been going to the store, friends’ houses, etc. you should feel comfortable attending service. If you have been avoiding going out, you should feel comfortable remaining at home and joining the livestream. If you are in a high-risk category, or are immuno-comprised, you should strongly consider not attending.
- We ask that, above all, we avoid spiritual one-up-manship and disunity in how we gather. We do not want attendance in a time of pandemic to be our measure of faith. Instead, we want to exhibit Christ-like love for one another and have conformity to his image to be our measuring stick. We’d encourage you to read Romans 14 before Sunday.
As we begin to gather again, we know that there will be adjustments. This is our plan for this Sunday, and for subsequent Sundays, until it’s not. We will continue to evaluate, listen, and learn. We also know that you will have questions, recommendations, or reservations: please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us and address them!
Finally, thank you for the love you have demonstrated throughout the past couple months and for your patience. As we move forward, may we continue in that same vein, to the glory of God and for the spread of the gospel in our area.
Grace and Peace,
Brandon, Bryant, Dan, and Richard
Dear Red Hills’ Family,
I pray this finds you well! I wanted to give you an update on our plans for corporate gatherings. This Sunday, May 3rd, we will not meet together but will use Facebook Live for our worship service as we have been doing. And, even though it is the first Sunday of the month, we will hold off on celebrating the Lord’s Supper until we can do so together, in-person. We do not currently have a date set for returning to regular activities but will consider it a week-by-week decision and let you know as soon as possible when we will meet again.
When we do meet again, we know that some things will change, and there will be a need to continue some wise, cautious, and loving social-distancing practices. When we set a date for meeting again, we will communicate more extensively what those practices and changes will be. One thing’s for sure, no matter what, it’ll be a day of celebration!
I also want to take this opportunity to share with you what we are basing our decision-making on, so you can continue to pray for us to have wisdom and clarity from the Lord. As many of you know, our goal in responding to the coronavirus situation was to continue obeying Jesus together. Your pastors felt two primary commands were operating in our decision-making process: 1) loving our neighbors and the most vulnerable among us by slowing the spread of a disease we didn’t have a lot of information on; and, 2) submitting to the governing authorities.
Regarding the first principle, we have since learned more about the disease. Early estimates of its lethality were higher than reality. We also now know that the spread of the disease in Southern Utah, our immediate context, has not matched that experienced in more populated locations. On top of that, the secondary effects of the response to the virus have proven to be detrimental to the well-being of many in our nation. Additionally, the emotional, relational, and social effects of isolation are beginning to be seen: God created us to be in relationship with others. Finally, many of you have mentioned the incredible longing you feel to be meeting with your fellow saints.
Regarding the second principle, when our governor put out his Stay Safe, Stay Home directive, it was initially slated to end on April 13th. It was later extended to May 1st. While we recognized that this was not an act of law-creation, bearing penalties if not followed, we believed that the best course of action was to respect and honor the intent behind the directive, which was understood to be for the good of the people of the state of Utah. We submitted gladly, for the sake of our witness to Christ and for conscience.
Now, as the directive expires and as we have learned more about the virus and the situation we face, we, the pastors of Red Hills, believe it is time to start thinking about meeting together again. We hope to make the decision soon and will keep you updated as we go. Also, if you have questions or suggestions, please reach out and let us know. We want to hear from you, and we want to obey Jesus together. God bless you and, Lord willing, we will see one another soon!
Brandon (Bryant, Dan, & Richard, too!)
Dear Red Hills Family,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior! I cannot wait until we can gather together again. In light of the newest recommendations from our governing authorities, however, we are canceling all in-person church gatherings through April. We will continue to stream our worship service live on Sunday mornings at 10:45. We will also continue with digital prayer meetings through Zoom on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM and Sundays at 10:00 AM.
Yes, this takes us through Resurrection Day. I know it will be strange for us not to gather on that Sunday, in particular. We must remember that our hope is not in a worship celebration, but in our risen Savior. We will celebrate the empty tomb on that Sunday with an empty building, but hearts that are full of joy.
To mark the day, we are going to try a couple of new things. First, we will celebrate communion on Easter Sunday. How are we going to do that without gathering, you ask? By distributing the elements beforehand and taking a moment in the live stream to take them at the same time, wherever we are. We will use the prepackaged cup/wafers we tried a couple of months ago (you can pre-open yours at your leisure: they can be a little challenging. Or you can provide your own elements). Just text or call me to set up a time to pick up the prepackaged version at the church building or let me bring it to you before Sunday.
The second thing I want to suggest is if you feel comfortable doing so, when the service is over, snap a picture of you and those who gather for worship with you that Sunday. I know for some of us that will mean changing out of the PJs first, but I’d like you to send me your pictures after you take them. I will put them together in a video that I will then share with everyone that afternoon.
The third thing I would encourage us to do on Resurrection Sunday is to invite others to join us, particularly those who are not Christ-followers. The Christian faith centers on the resurrection. It is the key to the Good News that we are commanded to share with everyone. So, invite others to watch along with you ahead of time, share the live stream, and let’s pray that God uses our celebration of Christ to bring many more into his kingdom.
Brandon (and Bryant, Dan, and Richard)
Dear Red Hills’ family,
Another week gone by, and another update regarding our response to coronavirus. First, though, thank you all for your faithfulness to one another and to our community. It has been an incredible blessing to see the offers of help, the encouraging words, and the great ideas you guys have come up with for serving and showing love in this time. There is no greater joy for your pastors than to see the work of the ministry taking place!
As we have continued to monitor the situation, we recognize that the virus is now present in our community, with two active cases at last update. In response to the likelihood of that number increasing, we are going to extend our cancellation of church gatherings through April 5th. We don’t do this out of fear, but out of a concern for our community and those who are most at risk from this disease.
Just because we aren’t able to gather, however, doesn’t mean we aren’t the church. As our building sits empty, I am reminded again of that crucial truth: a building isn’t a church; people are the church. And the church will continue through pestilence, persecution, or any other problems that come our way, until Jesus returns. And even then, the church will not shut down. Instead, it will be perfected and eternally glorify it’s King.
The situation we find ourselves in is temporary; the gospel is eternal and so is its people. Continue to love one another, seek the peace of the city we’re in, and look for opportunities to share the love, hope, and joy of Christ in trying times.
Grace & Peace,
Brandon (and Bryant, Dan, Richard)
PS If we can help you, encourage you, or answer any questions for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out, at any time. God bless you all!
Dear Red Hills’ family,
Remember when I said that as people of faith, we could be flexible in the midst of this rapidly-changing situation? Well, the time has come for us to be people of faith! Today, President Trump asked that gatherings of over ten people be restricted for the next 15 days in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As before, this request was not a command, and others may choose to respond differently than we do. However, with Utah recently having had its first community transmission, we feel it is important for us to take his recommendation seriously. Part of taking it seriously is…
- for the next 15 days, we are postponing or canceling all of our public church gatherings and meetings. Regarding the prayer meetings, we are working on options for remote prayer (likely a conference call or Zoom meeting), and we will communicate more soon.
- for the next two Sundays, we will not gather together for worship. Instead, we will bring together the worship team and me in the sanctuary and livestream our service on Facebook Live. We are working on upgrading some equipment to make the livestream better.
Also, as a reminder: we are not refraining from gathering for fear of individual infection, but to slow the rate of infection in our nation and our community. Your pastors are more than willing (and would love the privilege) to come to your home, read the Word together, answer any questions you may have, bring supplies you may need, etc. Just let us know.
And this is an excellent opportunity for us to be the Body. We can call one another, encourage one another, share goods and services with one another, pray for one another. One way to pray together is to start a group text or call, share needs, and then pray individually or collectively on the phone.
We are also looking for ways to bless our community, beyond merely heeding the governing authorities’ instructions. If you know of a need or an avenue of service in our community, please let us know.
Finally, things will inevitably continue to change. Still, the more conscientious we are at this early stage of honoring the weakest among us by limiting our freedom, the quicker we should see a resolution to the crisis. Your pastors will continue to monitor the situation and respond as the Lord leads. We welcome your questions or concerns along the way: please don’t hesitate to call, text, message, or email any of us.
Brandon (and Bryant, Dan, Richard)
Dear Red Hills family,
We want to address COVID-19 and its impact on both our community and our church. We know that there is a lot of conflicting information floating around on the Internet and in the news. Some of us think this situation is a manufactured situation, barely worthy of a scoff. Others consider it a major health crisis requiring an immediate response. And many of us aren’t sure what to think or are caught somewhere in-between. Today, your pastors talked about the coronavirus and how we will respond as a church.
Here are just some of the facts we considered in our discussion:
1. It is likely that there are significantly more cases of COVID-19 in the US than we realize.
2. The danger of this virus is minimal to younger people in good health.
3. The danger of this virus is significant for those who are older, those with compromised immune systems, and those with pre-existing conditions.
4. 26% of transmission happens before symptoms are experienced.
5. The transmission rate is high enough that if nothing changed, the US healthcare system would likely be overwhelmed, leading to a spike in the fatality rate.
6. The impact on the broader economy may be significant, and the reality is that friends and neighbors will likely be affected financially.
7. Our state government has recommended preventative measures, though they are not requiring them.
These factors are just some of the things we considered as we talked. As Christ-followers who have committed ourselves to obeying Jesus together, we don’t want to give into a spirit of fear regarding this new coronavirus, but nor do we want to follow the mocking spirit of the age that makes a joke of matters that can be deadly serious for the least of these in our midst. Instead, we want Red Hills to obey Jesus. You know as well as we do the Red Hills’ shorthand for Jesus’ Commands: Love God, Love Others, and Make Disciples. So, how do we do those three things in the present situation?
Love God. One of the primary ways we can love God is by remembering his attributes and praising him for who he is. We can start by recognizing that God is still on his throne and still sovereign. He was not surprised by COVID-19, nor is he surprised by the response of fallen people. This reality gives us an incredible amount of confidence, no matter what. Second, we can rest in the fact that God loves his people, from the young and healthy, to the old and immunocompromised. Nothing, not sickness, not death, not a lack of toilet paper on the store shelves, can separate us from the love of God. Third, we should trust his promises. He tells us that all things are working together for the good of those who are called according to his purpose, even coronavirus. Our responsibility is to love God by remembering who he is and praising him for it in the midst of this situation.
Love Others. This is where the rubber of our love for God hits the road of our relationships. We need to remember that we are not alone in this world, but that our every action impacts someone around us. For example, we are residents of a state whose governor has publicly called for no gatherings of over 100 people. He has also recommended that persons over the age of 60 not gather in groups larger than 20. Paul tells us in Romans 13 to be subject to those in authority over us. While he did not make it mandatory, the governor clearly expressed his desire and his rationale for the recommendation, which was to slow the spread of this virus. Thankfully, we are not a mega-church. It is not hard for us to restrict our gatherings to under 100, so we can honor our government as God’s instrument. A further example is that while most of us have no cause for concern if we catch the virus, given its low lethality in those who are younger and healthy, there are those who we come in contact with on a weekly basis who do have cause for concern. If there are steps we can take to slow the spread of the virus for the good of these neighbors, we ought to take them.
Make Disciples. Finally, we want to make disciples. That’s a relational task. But it’s also a demonstrational task. We have to show others what it means to follow Christ in addition to telling them. When we post rants on social media, either in support of strict measures or against them, are we demonstrating to others the life of a faithful disciple? We don’t want to demonstrate a spirit of fear nor do we want to demonstrate a spirit of stupidity and selfishness. Instead, we want to invite others to walk alongside us as we carefully avoid both ignorance and irrational panic.
With these things in mind, here is the decision of the pastors for the next couple of weekends:
1. We will meet for Sunday worship and prayer. However, we would highly recommend that individuals (and their families) who 1) are not feeling well, 2) have been recently exposed to someone not feeling well, 3) have compromised immune systems, 4) are over 60, or 5) have infant or young children at home, or 6) are uncomfortable gathering with others right now, stay home. Note that a typical Sunday finds us with about 140 people present on a Sunday. We want to honor the Governor’s request and you can help by staying home if you are in one of the groups mentioned above. We will be streaming the service live on Facebook and we encourage you to join us digitally. For those who do come, you should love others by washing your hands before you come, regularly while you are at church, and before you leave. Also, we will discourage the shaking of hands, hugging, or greeting one another “with a holy kiss”, for the next couple of weeks. A couple of suggestions for replacement greetings: smile, nod, wave, bow, etc. During the service we will not be passing offering plates, either, though you can still give before or after the service. Also, we ask that families sit together but that we give one another space, as much as possible, as we worship. We will also have a special time of prayer this Sunday covering the coronavirus, our nation, and those impacted by it.
2. We will not have nursery or Children’s church, due to the susceptibility of infants and the habits of children that promote the spread of disease.
3. We will not have Sunday School. Our Sunday School rooms are smaller spaces and we crowd together most weeks. Not having Sunday School reduces the concern of transmission through closer proximity.
4. We will postpone the Bible Camp Meeting, Welcome Lunch, the launch of the next round of Small Groups, and Men’s Breakfast.
Beyond these decisions for the church body, there are further steps that we can take to be gospel light in these dark days. Each of us can look for opportunities to serve those around us. If a neighbor or fellow church member is unable to get groceries, for example, we can step up. We can look for needs in our body caused by the economic realities of this situation and help one another financially. And we can be people of hope. We have been given an opportunity to show the world that we do not fear, that Christ is King, and that the gospel changes everything, including our response to coronavirus.
We will continue to keep you updated as the situation warrants. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. And, if you know someone at Red Hills who may not be in the loop, please reach out to them and share this information with them.
Brandon, Bryant, Dan, & Richard